Although they actually play in New Jersey, it didn’t really matter where this game was played as the Cowboys didn’t put up much resistance to the defending champion New York Giants who rolled over a hapless Dallas team 35-14.
Dallas needed to play a near-perfect game to possibly win on the road at Giants Stadium, but instead played their sloppiest game to date giving up three turnovers in the first half and piling up a 21-7 deficit at halftime because of it. Brad Johnson threw two interceptions in Dallas’ first three possessions and was pulled in the second half in favor of third-string back-up Brooks Bollinger.
Bollinger did a little better after throwing a pick of his own on Dallas’ first possession of the second half leading the Cowboys to an early fourth quarter touchdown cutting the Giants’ lead to 28-14.
However, the Dallas defense which had played fairly well in the first half and most of the third quarter, gave up big chunks of ground to Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward as the Giants pounded the ball down the field for another score to put the game away at 35-14. Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes in the first half, greatly aided by a short field for most of the game, especially after the first two turnovers by Dallas. The Giants offense set the tone early by driving for 75-yards and a touchdown on the opening drive of the game and never seemed to look back on their way to beating the injury-riddled Cowboys.
Although Jason Witten did play, he wasn’t much of a factor as he was obviously not at full strength with a fractured rib and CB Anthony Henry made a valiant effort as well. The only two players really missing in the game were QB Tony Romo and CB Terrence Newman, as most Giants fans would happily point out, but several other areas were severely limited due to the injury situation. For example, P Sam Paulescu’s punting was far below that of Pro Bowler Matt McBriar which led to several line-drive punts returned either into Dallas territory or close to midfield throughout the game as Dallas lost both the field position and time of possession battles to New York over and over.
The defense did manage to get three turnovers of their own, including rookie CB Mike Jenkins first ever interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter which put Dallas momentarily back in the game at 14-7. They would also recover two Eli Manning fumbles, but one was quickly followed by a Terrell Owens fumble and the other led to a Brooks Bollinger touchdown pass to the same Terrell Owens in the fourth quarter. But the Giants were able to run the ball at will and the secondary was either penalized or burned throughout the game as the young DB’s tried to make plays to get their team back in the game.
The offensive line struggled for the second week in a row with pass protection allowing 4 sacks in the game, 2.5 sacks to the Giants’ Justin Tuck and both Johnson and Bollinger were under constant pressure all afternoon. Marion Barber finished with just 54-yards rushing on 19 carries, but did have a nice 21-yard run that was followed up by a Brad Johnson interception.
The Giants are definitely a good team, but Dallas made them look much better than they are with this disappointing effort. With a bye week next week, perhaps getting healthy and having a bit of a break will greatly improve both their attitude and effort in the second half of the season with the return of Romo and others to the lineup. One can only hope that it will as they are now in last place in the vaunted NFC East and have only an outside shot at making the playoffs.